Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Although I should be doing my homework right now, I figured I would update my blog.  Things are finally starting to fall into place with the whole Paris trip.  It was super stressful and super complicated to plan everything.  Not only did we have to figure out the flight, a hostel, and getting to and from the airport, but we also had to factor in a 5 hour bus ride and bus tickets to Madrid, where the flight leaves from. Honestly, I had no idea at all that Madrid was so far away when I brought my plane ticket.

Another thing that I was able to take care of was my whole boot situation.  I bought a pair of boots, wore them once, and found that they were too small.  I wasn't thinking and went to try to return them without cleaning off the bottoms first.  The evil Asian ladies in the store looked at the bottoms, said that I couldn't return them because I had walked in them.  When I was confused and said "que?" they demonstrated "walking" for me. Excellent.  Anyways, I went back a few days later and I swear it was the same lady working.  I got scared, and left.  After asking several of my friends to try to exchange them for me, and either they didn't have the time or were too scared to try haha, my one friend finally made the exchange for me. Hurray!

My last accomplishment of the week was booking a Hostel for my mom for when she comes to visit in March.  I can't wait! I know that she is going to love Granada.  I checked into a few different places on the internet, then went to look at them.  I found one place that was very close to my house, inexpensive, and had a discount for family members of students.  I was pretty scared to go and try to make reservations, but I did it.
I decided that I should buy a rolling suitcase to take with me on trips while I am here.  Luckily, there are a bunch of Asian Bazaars here that seriously have EVERYTHING.  Shoes, clothes, school supplies, makeup, toiletries, kitchen stuff, cleaning supplies, picture frames, household items, bathroom stuff, and much much more.  I was able to buy a rolling suitcase for 17 Euro, so not bad at all.  Then I went into the supermarket and discovered this beverage.

It was only 49 cents, huge, and pretty much sparkling lemonade.  This could be a problem because I have a feeling that it is going to be the new form of my former sparkling water addiction.  Lately, I just NEED something to drink that's not water, coffee, or tea.  The only beverages in the house besides those three are milk, chocolate milk juice boxes, coke, and "non-alcoholic beer." Yeah I know interesting...

But food wise, I really couldn't be much happier.  Eva makes homemade soup all the time, so a lot of times I'll have that, salad, and bread for lunch.  Today, she made a delicious bean and chickpea soup.  It's pretty funny that every single time she sets a plate in front of me she immediately asks "quieres mas?!" When my response is always "no, no estoy bien."  Yet she never fails to ask me.

My class schedule for when my classes at the University start on February 6th turned out pretty much exactly how I wanted them to, so I'm happy about that.  Classes are an hour and a half long and meet either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday.  I have class at 11:30, 3:30, and 5 every day.  I can't believe that I leave for France on Saturday! Ahh so crazy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I bought a new camera today! Hurray! My Senora told me about a place called Hipercor that has really good deals and a wide selection of cameras.  I went there today and bought a pretty, black, Nikon coolpix camera for only 99 Euro (about $125).  

One of the people in charge of my program told me about a different electronic store in the area.  This morning when I went for a run, I ran to that store and the one that Eva told me about to see where they were located.  As I was running to Hipercor I discovered yet another BEAUTIFUL park! I honestly think that this one takes the cake for all of the parks in the city that I have seen so far.  It's called Parque Federico García Lorca.  After a brought my camera, I stopped there to take pictures.

As I continued my walk back home, I found a pretty legit looking running store.  Then on the final stretch of my walk, I stopped to take a picture of the AMAZING view that I get to have each and every day.  It was a pretty surreal moment. 

My Senora has this spread called Crema de Cocoa, which is a milk chocolate and white chocolate swirled spread that you can use on toast and such.  I have discovered that it is sooo delicious to simply eat a spoonful of it after a meal hahaha. Seriously, I'm a little obsessed with it at the moment. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's been a while...

Hola! Not much has happened these past few days, which is why I haven't really been updating my blog.  My intensive language class is going well.  I'm still loving the city, my senora, and all of the amazing places to run.  However, this week has been pretty stressful.  I've had sooo many random things that I needed to take care of.

1. Buying my textbook.  The University's official Liberia (bookstore) didn't have the book the first two days that I tried to get it.  The lady at the bookstore told me they would have it the next day two days in a row! I went back two other times, and the store wasn't open.  I finally journeyed over to a different bookstore and got the book.
2. A cell phone.  I was really on the fence about if I should get a very simple, pay-as-you-go, cell phone for while I'm here.  After talking to other people in  my program, my mom, and a someone that I know who studied here last semester, I finally decided to buy one.  I went to the phone store and was very confused when they gave me two cell phones, each with a different number.  When I told them that I only needed one, they said that there was a special promotion going on, and that it would be the same price whether I just got the one phone, or both of them.  I think that it will be good to have a cell phone when trying to communicate with people here or for when I travel.  That leads to my next concern...
3. Traveling over break.  When our intensive language course ends at the end of January, we have a week break without classes.  After that week, we start our official classes at the University.  I definitely want to travel somewhere during the break. I started talking to other people here to see what they were planning.  I am probably going to go to Paris for a few days.  I just hate spending money, planning things, worrying about hostels, flights, costs, etc.
4. My camera.  After talking to one of my program managers, I decided that it would be too time consuming and costly to take it in to get fixed.  I was going to have my mom send me my old one, but now I think I am just going to buy a new one here.  There is an electronic store that is not far from my house that sells cameras for a pretty reasonable price.

Well, I think that those are my main concerns at the moment.  I just need to relax and take things one at a time. I haven't taken a siesta in days because I've been so busy! Hopefully things will settle down soon.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Visit to the Alhambra

Today we visited the famous Alhambra.  The Alhambra is a beautiful castle that was built in the 11th century.  The Alhambra was a finalist in the "Seven Wonders of the World" contest.  The Alhambra and the Generalife gardens there were soooo breathtaking.  However, I dropped my camera and the lens got smashed in. I was so mad! Luckily this didn't happen until half way through the tour, so I still have a decent amount of pictures from the visit.  I have no idea were I can take my camera to get fixed and no idea how much it will cost.

After the tour, I took advantage of the AMAZING rebajas (deals) that go on in the city for the entire month of January.  It's crazy! Every store has major sales the entire month.  I bought a really cute pair of boots for only 16 euro.  However, I spent that last of my euro and now I need to withdraw money from the ATM.  I really hope that the transaction fees aren't a lot.  One other thing that is really annoying me at the moment: I have tried to buy my book for my intensive language class three times now.  Two times the lady told me they would have it tomorrow, and today it was closed.

I came back from the Alhambra/shopping and took a nap, ran, ate dinner, worked on school work, and now am watching TV with my Senora.  Tomorrow I plan on just relaxing the entire day.  I feel like I have been so busy and doing so much walking every single day.  I just really need to figure out what to do about my camera...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I feel like I am becoming a different person in Spain

Hola! Today was muy bueno.  Since my intensive language class is from 4-8PM, I had a very nice and relaxing morning.  I went for a run, showered, ate, looked over some old Spanish notes, and took a siesta.  I was a little nervous to start class, but I found that I really enjoyed it.  It is a small class, with about 10 students.  I am the only one from Illinois in my class.  There are people from New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and even two girls from other countries! (I forget which countries but one is Oriental and the other one is from some Island).  I have one teacher for the first hour, and then a different teacher for the last three hours.  Both of them were really nice, but I especially liked Adolfo Sanchez, who I have for the three hour session.

I was really surprised at how I acted during class.  I actually participated a lot, asked questions, and wasn't afraid to answer a question wrong.  It was very unlike how I usually am in classes.  During our breaks, I was also very brave and outgoing.  I didn't know anyone in my class, but I made an effort to talk with them anyways.  Like the title of this entry says, I felt like a different person!  As I walked home down the busy, bright streets of Granada, I was definitely on a major high.  When I got home, Eva prepared me an amazing dinner of salad with spinach leaves (when I told her I liked spinach salads, she went out and brought spinach leaves the next day =] ), a delicious, grilled and seasoned piece of fish, and some bread and cheese.

At the moment, I am very satisfied with everything here.  I feel that I was placed in the perfect level for the intensive language course, because I can move up to the Hispanic Studies level afterwords.  Eva is soooo caring and nice and I feel so lucky to have her as a Senora.

Adios para ahora!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Feelin' a bit homesick

I think that yesterday was probably the most mentally exhausting day of my life.  Around noon I headed to a barbecue in the countryside with Eva, Jorge, Eva's boyfriend Arturo, and the dog Scooby.  There were about 10 of Eva's family members at the BBQ at her dad's house.  Everyone was so nice and I had a good time.  However, it was really intimidating when an entire table of people who don't know English were trying to help me understand something but I just couldn't figure out what they were trying to say.  At one point someone asked me how long I have been studying Spanish for.  I thought that they asked how long I would be here in Granada studying Spanish for and I said 5 months.  They all gasped and were like "oh wow!" I finally figured out that I had answered the question totally wrong and that the correct response was 5 years not 5 months.

At the barbecue, the men cooked just about every kind of meat that you can image like chorizo, lamb, chicken, and sausage.  Of course there was a ton of bread to be eaten along with everything too.  Eva, knowing how much that I love her salads, brought salad to the BBQ.  I was pretty much the only one that  ate it and I thought that it was so sweet that she brought it along just for me.  When we finally got home about 6 hours later, I was so mentally and physically exhausted.  However, once again when I tried to fall asleep my mind was spinning with both English and Spanish, and it took me forever to fall asleep.

Today we had a placement exam for the intensive language course that we are taking before actual classes at the university start in February.  I thought that I really nailed the writing part, but the grammar section was questionable.  The last section was a very short speaking session.  A lot of the students were told what level they were placed into right after their oral section.  Myself, along with a few others, weren't told right away and have to wait until they post the results online tonight.  After the exam I walked home down a different street then usual and finally found a supermarket with good prices on the things that I still needed to buy. I brought some essentials such as deodorant and hair products.  Now, I am going to take a siesta and then go for a run.

I forgot to mention that the mysterious urinal/sink in the bathroom that I mentioned before is for cleaning "down there." Yeah we definitely don't have those in the U.S... Another thing that is different here is that they have little circular tables in the living room that they play a heater beneath.  They cover the table with a large blanket, a table cloth, and then a glass piece on top.  When you are cold, you just lift up the cloth/blanket and put it on your lap.  It's hard to explain but hopefully you somewhat get the picture.

I am definitely starting to miss my family and friends, as well as some of my favorite foods like Greek yogurt, ice cream, spinach leaves, soy milk, and American coffee (which is definitely different then it is in Spain).  Luckily it's so beautiful here that I can just look out the window and be reminded that I'm in an amazing city and that this is the experience of a lifetime.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

a visit to the Albaycin

Did you know that there is a difference between a bar and a pub in Spain?  Well apparently there is.  A bar is a place that serves meals, alcohol, and tapas.  In a pub however, there is music, dancing, drinks, and no tapas or meals.  We started off last night in a bar, and I had my first experience with tapas.  In pretty much every Granada bar, they serve free appetizers called tapas whenever you order a drink.  We got a bowtie pasta dish and a rice dish just for ordering drinks.  From there, we aimlessly wandered the streets and ended up in a pub con muchos espanoles jovenes.  I arrived home around 2:30AM, woke up my senora when her dog went crazy, and slept til 10AM.  I woke up, ate breakfast and went on another amazing run.  At 4:30, I met up with my group at los correos and we took a trip to the Albaycin.  According to the facebook event group:

The Albaycin is the old Arab Quarter. It comprises approximately the area between the hill of the Alhambra, the hill of San Cristobal, the Sacromonte and Elvira.   
The Albaycin is like a different world within Granada. This is due to the strong Muslim influence in this area. It was the place where the first Siri court was built in the eleventh century. 
This is a district to explore. Walk through all its narrow streets and discover things that you cannot find in a guide book. No visit to the Albaycin can be complete without seeing the district from the Alhambra. 
The Albaycin is a neighbourhood where you can experience the atmosphere of its bars and terraces, and watch a red sunset over the Alhambra.

It was soooo beautiful there!  At the end of our tour, we went to a tea place and had tea and pastries.  I came back to my senoras house and she had me listen to some CD's that she had brought illegally from a street vender hahaha.  I put the CD's on my iTunes library so that I can now jam out to la musica de espana todo el tiempo.

Friday, January 6, 2012

El dia de los reyes

This morning I decided to run along the opposite direction of the river and discovered a beautiful running path.   There were a bunch of other people running and walking on it and it pretty much goes right along the Sierra Nevada!  It was such a surreal view.  When I got back from my run, my host mom had presents waiting for me.  It was like Christmas round two.  She got me socks, a cute stuffed dog, chocolates and candies.  Around 1PM, Eva's boyfriend Arturo came to get us in his car. We all went to a restaurant where the top area is circular and turns really slowly, giving you a birds eye view of the entire city.  It was amazing!  We had tapas and cerveza there.

Then we drove to a mountain top restaurant that was at the end of the Sierra Nevada National Park.  It was a beautiful day so we sat outside and ate a lunch of several different traditional Spanish dishes.  I'm not sure if this is how it is in all restaurants in Spain, but at this one you order several dishes (such as salad, the meats, sides such as potatoes, etc.) and then everyone at the table shares them.  I tried this extremely strange meat that was a blackish red color and looked somewhat like a sausage.  You had to peal back the skin and put the ground beef looking meat on bread to eat it.  It tasted...interesting.  Actually, it tasted pretty good and somewhat spicy, but I wouldn't be able to eat too much of it.  EVERYTHING is served with bread here in Spain, so of course there was a huge loaf of bread on the side.

For the third day in a row I took an amazing siesta.  After my nap, my senora and I had coffee and this traditional pastry ring thing for the dias de los reyes.  Tonight I think the plan is to go to a discotecta.  That should be an interesting experience ;)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Granada puts Chicago to shame

I have decided that Granada is the most beautiful city in the world (sorry Chicago).  With it's cobblestone side streets, the busy plaza, beautiful little parks everywhere, and the mountains in the background, I couldn't image a city having much more to offer then this one does.  Today I met up with the people from my program at our central meeting location, correos, or the post office.  We had another short orientation about the classes and extracurricular activities.  Then we took a walking tour of the city.

After the tour, I went home and my Senora made me a traditional dish of Spain called tortilla de papa.  Oh, and the dish that I had the first day was called paella.  I took a wonderful siesta and then headed back to the plaza to watch the parade de los reys.  Tomorrow is a holiday called el dia de los reys, or the day of the three kings.  It is a holiday to celebrate the arrival of the three kings (or three wise men as we call them).  The celebration begins the night before with a huge parade were they throw out handfuls of candy.  There are also designated float for each of the three kings for a reenactment of the arrival of the Three Kings into town.

While we were waiting for the parade, I began talking with an adorable old man and his wife.  Is that creepy if I post the picture that I secretly took of him? Him and his wife are from France but have been traveling all around Spain.  He was really friendly and funny.  The best was when he was talking about "bailando en la discotecas" (dancing in the clubs) and did a demonstration for us.  He also told us that while in Spain we needed to find "chicos que son guapos y ricos." (handsome and rich)

I don't think that it has hit me yet that this is going to be my home for five whole months.  I love it here, but I'm already starting to feel a bit homesick.  I also haven't been able to skype my family, or anyone else yet.  It's so hard with the time difference.  Still, I'm so happy to be here and am glad that I have been able to become friends with some of the girls already.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


This afternoon I got to meet Eva's sister, her sister's two sons, and her great aunt.  All of them and her mom, who I already met, came over for Jorge's birthday celebration.  The greatest thing was seeing Jorge's little 10 year old cousin posing for a picture with his arms crossed, trying to look ganster, wearing the Chicago bulls baseball cap that my mom brought for me to give to Jorge.  Eva's sister's 23 year old son graduated from the University of Granada last year.  El es muy guapo hahaha.  I showed the family pictures of my family and friends and they loved them. 

Eva keeps the ISU postcard that I gave her proped up on a table in the living room and always shows people when they come and explain that it's my University in the United States.  She always wants to make me food and is constantly asking me if I'm hungry, which I never am cause she is constantly feeding me massive amounts of food.  She is so cute, and nice, and I just feel so lucky to have her as a host mom.

I'm having trouble not typing/thinking things in Spanish.  Good sign!  A final thought of the night, is that strange sink/urinal thing in the bathroom some sort of sink for washing things, a urinal, or none of the above? I have no idea.

Actually another last thought: If I keep constantly being offered coffee, tea, and beer (yes, the first night I was here Eva, her mom, and I tosted to my arrival and then of course tonight we all tosted to Jorge)  I will never be properly hydrated again.

Dia numero dos en Espana

      Yes, I know that the title is lacking tildes.  Considering I am using a Spanish keyboard with a button for the Ñ, this shouldn´t be a problem.  But I still cant figure out how to get them.  I need to get wifi access so that I can Skye because I feel so disconnected from everyone and everything already. 
      Today started off great.  I woke up and ran along the river.  I even found a nice (but short) bike path near a park.  There is a park right outside my house that has work out machines and elliptical type machines! Its hilarious to see them right next to the playground.  Unfortunatly, they dont do much cause there are no weights for them.
       I got back and took a shower.  That was another experience in itself.  The shower heads are the kind that you either have to hold, or place in a little u-shaped grove above your head.  Unfortunately, I couldn´t figure out how to position it so that the spout wasn´t facing the wall.  So i had to lean again the wall to get any water.  After breakfast, my host mom Eva and I headed for the post office, where I met up with the rest of the students from my program.  We had a short orientation session and got our pictures taken for our University of Granada student IDs. 
      Apparently there was some miscommunication between me and my host mom (literally the story of my life right now) I thought she was coming to get me from the post office afterwards so I waited about 20 minutes before heading back to her house in the totally wrong direction.  After asking someone on the street, I had to go back to where I started and start again.  I got home to a smiling host mom, delicious salad, and large plate of spaghetti.  Its Eva's sons 10th birthday today.  Some of their family is coming over tonight to celebrate.

Feliz Cumpleanos a Jorge! Adios para a hora.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Well, I´m in Spain! The flight went really smoothly for the most part.  Unfortunately when my family and I went to the international terminal, we were sent wayyyy back to terminal 3, where we had started out at.  After a somewhat teary goodbye, I frantially wandered around the airport, buying some apples, getting a gingerbread iced latte, and somehow only getting 60 Eros even though I wanted 100.  The lady at the currency exchange booth was so confusing so I was like whatever, just give me the 60.  I was actually able to sleep a lot on the flight, which was good since we arrived at Granada around 8AM their time.  I was fed some strange airport food during the flight of grey, slimy chicken, some sort of egg or shrimp or something salad, rice, cooked carrots and spinach, are tarimisou (I thought of you Alyssa).  Breakfast was really strange too: ham and cheese on this croissant bread thing, a cranberry muffin (tasty) juice, coffee, fruit cup and a kit kat bar.  Nothing says 7AM like a kit kat bar.  After getting off the plane in Granada, I met up with about 15 other ISU students who had been on my flight.  We all waited about two hours for a flight to Granada.  It´s so beautiful here! The city is tucked in some snow capped mountains.  It´s sunny and warm and full of life.  My host mom, Eva, has a son, a dog, and a cat.  Her and her mother picked me up from the bus stop.  She made me a delicious, traditional Spanish dish, which unfortunately I forgot the name of.  She also made a delicious, milky, pudding like dessert, which I also forgot the name of.  I´m not going to lie though, I´m scared out of my mind right now.  I honestly couldn´t understand what Eva and her mother were saying half the time.  We also can´t figure out how I can get Internet, so I'm using her son´s computer.  I just really wish I could understand more of what she is saying, because as of now I just feel confused, alone, and scared.  I know that it will only get easier though.